Illegal detention, custodial violence not discharge of 'public duty'; cannot claim protection under Section 197 CrPC: Karnataka High Court

14th June,2021

Illegal detention, custodial violence not discharge of 'public duty'; cannot claim protection under Section 197 CrPC: Karnataka High Court


The Karnataka High Court has ruled that illegal imprisonment of an innocent person, as well as subsequent custodial brutality and torture, cannot be considered acts performed in the course of a police officer's public duty (S Shivakumar v. State of Karnataka). Justice HP Sandesh, a single-judge, ruled that if a public servant's authority is misused for doing things that are not otherwise legal, such acts cannot claim the protection of Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and must be considered separate from the duties that a public servant is required to discharge or perform.
When an innocent person is taken to the police station without being arrested and detained illegally in custody, and he is tortured despite the fact that he has no criminal history, the act of the police officers cannot be called an act done in the course of performing public duty because it is nothing more than a misuse of powers vested in the petitioners, who are police officers. As a result, the Court dismissed a petition filed by seven police officers under Section 482 CrPC, seeking to quash proceedings before the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Chickballapur, for offences punishable under Sections 167, 330, 342, 348, and 307 read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code. To give some context, on May 14, 2010, the complainant's son was summoned to the police station by accused No. 2, a police inspector, and a few constables in connection with a gold stealing case. Later, it was revealed that one of the complainant's friends had phoned him on his cellphone to inform him that Circle Inspector, i.e., accused No. 1, had phoned him to inquire about the complainant and his reputation. The complainant and his kid went to the police station. His son was unjustly detained and tortured and assaulted for two days at the police station. He was eventually released, but not before he was pressured and threatened not to tell anyone about his imprisonment and abuse. They also threatened him that if he revealed the truth, he would be imprisoned indefinitely and false charges of robbery and dacoity would be brought against him. The son became depressed a few days after the police station event and attempted suicide by ingesting poison. The complainant attempted to submit a complaint against the police officials with Dodballapur police, but no case was filed. He even approached the Human Rights Commission about the matter, but to no avail. However, as previously stated, if a public servant's authority is misused for doing activities that are not otherwise permitted by law, such acts are not protected by Section 197 Cr.P.C. and must be considered separate from the tasks that a public servant is expected to discharge or execute. As a result, no protection can be requested by the public worker in the event of prosecution for such excesses or misuse of authority," the Court stated. The Court further stated that there are several materials against the accused that the Magistrate and the Revisional Court have evaluated. "As a result, I do not see any validity in the petition to utilise the powers under Section 482 of the CrPC in quashing the proceedings instituted against the petitioners herein," the Court said in dismissing the petitioner's claim.